Efficacy and Safety of Continuation and Maintenance Electroconvulsive Therapy in Depressed Elderly Patients: A Systematic Review

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most efficacious treatment in severely depressed elderly patients. Relapse and recurrence of geriatric depression after recovery is an important clinical issue, which requires vigorous and safe treatment in the long term. Continuation or maintenance ECT (M-ECT) may play an important role in this respect.


In this systematic search, we evaluate the efficacy and safety of M-ECT in preventing depressive relapse in patients age 55 or older. Computer databases were searched for relevant literature published from 1966 until August 2010 with additional references.


Twenty-two studies met the search criteria including three randomized clinical trials. M-ECT was studied in nine studies exclusively in the elderly patients.


Research on this clinically important topic is sparse. On the basis of available literature, M-ECT is probably as effective as continuation medication in severely depressed elderly patients after a successful course of ECT and is generally well tolerated. To date, methodologically sound studies, which take into account important issues in geriatric depression like cognition, comorbidity, and clinical parameters, are lacking.

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